Today I woke up in a bed that I will sleep in again tonight. I did not have to unpack my life from a tattered backpack. I don’t need to set up a tent, or wait for it to dry, or pack up a dirty, soggy glob of material back into the bottom of my bag. I will not have to meticulously repack any of my things in the morning. I just place them, here or there, where they go. And when my clothes are dirty, I may change them. And when those are also dirty, I may wash them.
When I want to pee or shit or brush my teeth, I go to the room at the end of the hall. I don’t have to ask anyone if it’s okay that I go in there. If I want to, I can even take a shower in there. The shower has a shower curtain and there is soap. The toilet has a seat and there is toilet paper. I can even use the soap at the sink after I use the toilet. And I don’t have to double check with someone about the soap or the toothpaste or a towel. No one is banging on the door wondering when I’ll get out. No one is telling me, “Sorry, but company policy is customers only.”
In the kitchen there is a refrigerator. Sometimes I have more food than I can eat all at once, so I put it in the refrigerator and I can eat it later. There aren’t any bugs on it. It doesn’t spill onto my clothing. Because my clothing is not in the refrigerator. Clothing now lives in a different space than food. And the food doesn’t go sour in the hot sun.
It’s hot here in Georgia. Not unlike the summers we’ve spent the past couple years chasing around. There is a fan, right there on the ceiling, and I can turn that fan on by simply flicking a switch or pulling a string. It comes with a light. And they’re all attached right up there to the roof which doesn’t leak at all so when it rains I’m dry.
When I’m thirsty I can go to the sink and get water. I don’t have to boil it or pour iodine in it or wait for a pill to dissolve in it or swish a UV light around for 10 minutes inside of it. I don’t have to go somewhere and buy it in a big plastic jug. I don’t have to beg anyone to spare some from their jugs. I can just walk right over to the faucet and turn it on and out comes this wet stuff that I can drink. And then I’m not thirsty. I can do that whenever I want. I don’t even have to be in this house with the fans and the toilet seats and the refrigerator. I can go to other houses and they all have this same quality water in their faucets too.
If I want to use the internet I can. And if my computer needs to be plugged in, there is a plug. These things work all hours of the day and are pretty much always there. I don’t have to ask anyone for the password.
If I want to see someone I know, I can do that, pretty easily, within a matter of minutes. And if I don’t want to see anyone, if I just want to read or wallow around for half a day severely and inexplicably depressed, punching myself in the thighs as hard as I can, hoping that it may help me feel something, then I can do all that too, behind a door and walls that shield me from view and give me space to not be watched. I don’t have to ask anyone for permission to sit where I am and read, nor to wallow around, punching my legs and wondering if they will bruise and then marveling at how much my legs can ache without showing any visible evidence. I can do all these things. Or not. Either way, it’s cool.
Suddenly there’s this vacuum to try and fill in. Its magnitude is immense. The abyssal freedom before me overwhelms. Where once there was a full day ahead of handling the basics, where to eat or excrete, how to get there, where to sleep… suddenly all of that is just handled. Peeing takes no more time and effort than the time and effort it takes me to pee. There is all this time and there are all these possibilities.
Depression hangs like a cloud here as it did all over everywhere I went. It does not go away, but sometimes the darkness lightens. Today has been a fascinating mix of the darkness and the lightness. Today is not unlike many days of the trip. Life rolls on much as it did for me and for others while I was on the road. And with all that, there is too the awareness of just how smoothly everything continues without me, without any of us. The inertia of life itself supercedes our own.
So we must make our own momentum, carve out our own spaces. I’m trying to do that in a meaningful way, but still wandering the funhouse of aliveness, bumping into walls, trundling through confusion and hopelessness, determination and optimism.
What do I do with all this time? What is meaningful? Years of living out questions yields ever more questions. In the hundreds of days spent wandering and watching and listening there was also a lot of time to think and reflect. All the idealism such time yields fits well in the cracks of society, fluttering in the winds of transience. Now suddenly things are measured again. There are schedules. People have bills and rent, landlords. And I no longer float in and out of their lives. The struggle of a long string of goodbyes is converting itself back into the cyclical struggle of familiar hellos. This town, full of lords exerting their will to which we are beholden, is not unlike the others through which I’ve passed, and it is not so unlike itself before I returned.
So for now I have a place where I’m allowed to be. I don’t have to ask permission. No one is telling me what to do. Survival is not a quest in the same sense as before. Maslow’s bottom tier: check. My pieces fracture at times, but I’m holding it together, about as well as any of us it seems.
So now what?